There Are Stars in the Southern Sky

It was just a few short weeks ago, but it feels a lifetime. Hero Hubs and I were sitting outside with the lights off, half a world away with the sounds of the African night all around us. For days, we’d been watching a small family of bats that was nesting in a little space between the doorframe and the door nearby, and at dusk they’d come out to begin their nightly ritual of swooping through the air above our patio.

As the bats collected their meal, a few insects at a time, the hubs and I talked. We stilled, hushed and listened to the birds and the sounds and the low murmur of television sets and other human life in the cottages nearby. The incredible gift of echolocation amazed us and we watched how quickly the bats changed course: their flight might be aiming straight at our heads, then they’d adjust direction within inches of our ears and we’d hear a gentle swoop as they passed.

It was one of those irresistibly special moments where I thought to myself, “I wonder… could anyone else in the world being doing exactly this thing at this moment?”

I was delighted by the experience, grateful we were outside thinking and talking and looking up and not inside staring at screens. And while the idea of a few bats whirring past my ears made me a bit nervous, I just decided… I am not going to be afraid. I’m going to live this experience, this moment.

There are stars in the southern sky.

And I can honestly say I’ve never seen stars like I’ve seen them from the southern hemisphere on a clear night, near the bushveld and far away from bright lights and city pollution. It’s become a ritual on every journey back to SA. We always find at least one night, and we look up at the sky together, sit quiet and talk. We talk about our lives, what we are hoping for or preparing for in the season ahead. And this time we talked a lot about my Dad-in-law’s (I prefer Dad-in-love’s) health. We were startled by how fragile and weak and declining he seemed when we arrived back in SA.

Three weeks. It was a precious and good time making new memories with family. We were also privileged in our visits into Kruger National Park. Blessed to see animals and sights we’d never seen before in the previous ten years of game viewing together. Lions mating, wild dogs with pups, a hippo having an argument with a crocodile, and back at our cottage, several gorgeous species of kingfishers fishing right off the porch where we were staying. We watched yellow weavers making nests in an acacia tree overhead, listened as they chittered feisty arguments about who would get which branch, marveled as they clipped away at last year’s nests and let all that hard work drop into the pond below to make space for new nests.

It was as if the very voice of God was whispering to my soul with every sight, with every sound, with every blessed moment… I’m with you and I love you.

I was grateful for that whisper — I just didn’t know yet how much I needed it.


We spent our last few days in Bloemfontein, soaking in the last few moments with Mom and Dad before we’d be half a world away again. On one of our last nights, Dad had a roll of toilet paper by his chair, which he decided to pass to sweet baby Catriana (now ten months old) to see what she might decide to do with it. She rolled it out and began tearing strips into shreds, and I watched her enjoying her new toy, but I really took in Dad just enjoying her. There was a beautifully bright gleam in his eyes.

At the end of those three weeks, we said a really hard, really sad goodbye. Living far away is just hard. Really hard. For the last four years, every goodbye has been a scary could-this-be-the-last-one goodbye.

With Bloemfontein in our rear view mirror, we endured the treacherous five hour drive to ten hour flight to fourteen hour flight to five hour drive home. We arrived exhausted, and after a brief rest, jumped in to all the commitments on the calendar. Quiver Tree Academy (our homeschool) started up again, at least until everyone got knocked out by some unpleasant virus that came for a visit.

The news came just two days after our return, Dad was in the hospital. Day after day we did our best to keep going here, while waiting to hear news about Dad, doing poorly there.

Life is messy hard when you are mostly waiting but have to keep living.


We’d only been home ten days when we heard the news.

I’ve had the privilege of calling two men Dad in my lifetime. And now my second Dad had breathed his last breath. That night, Hero Hubs drove to the airport to get on a plane the next morning, headed back to our beloved country again.

It has rained every day this week, and the stormy skies seem to reflect the sentiments in my own soul. Grief is a path that can take you in several directions, almost simultaneously. Angry and sad, grateful and glad for the memories, hurt and fearful when you consider the great separation between you and this person so dear to you… you can jump from one path to the next, one emotion to the next, in the blink of an eye.

You can be sitting still on the outside, but on the inside, your soul feels like it’s rocking in a tiny boat on tempestuous waves.

For days now, we’ve been mostly sad. I’m sad that it seemed best for the kids and me to stay here while HH traveled home to bury his father. We FaceTime, sad at this loss, sad at the separation.

It takes a while for me to remind myself that sad is often right, and appropriate, and it’s okay. Not every sentence needs to end with an exclamation point.

I think about what wise old Job said to his wife, when she was so bitter at all the sadness in their lives and said he ought to curse the heavens for all the broken parts of his life.

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” {Job 2:10}

We came home to the leaves falling from the trees, the reminder that part of the renewing is in the letting go. The beloved dogwoods in my front yard will bloom again in the spring, but first leaves have to fall. This too is part of the process.

It can be awfully hard to lean into trusting that even though you’re not in control, somehow life can still be okay. It can be hard to sit still and trust the special gift God gave the bat to keep it from hitting you in the head. But a small kind of miracle can take place if you can let go.

New leaves will push through in the spring and life will be renewed. A tiny whoosh passes by and your ear canal catches it and tells your brain — that’s the sound of a tiny little bat who just changed direction mid-flight to avoid colliding with you. Rejoice in how amazing it is. Even if it’s also so simple.

The Dad our family will say goodbye to tomorrow was often a man of few words, but also a man who spoke up when it was time to speak. He was a man who made efforts to greet cashiers at the checkout in their native language, and even if the first three languages he tried didn’t work, he kept trying.

Sometimes the simple things are the most amazing.

I’m grateful we had three more weeks of memories so recently. I’m grateful Dad had 77 years of life. I marvel that he was just a few weeks shy of being married 50 years to the one and only love of his life.

Living out a promise faithfully for 50 years. Beaming in his last few days at the mischief of passing a roll of toilet paper to a baby just to see what she’ll do.

Sometimes the simple things are the most amazing.

There are stars in the southern sky.

And there are stars right where you are, too. And it’s amazing to think the light that you’re seeing often started its journey from those distant places before you were born. The very star you’re wishing on might’ve died years ago, but the light it let off is still on its journey in this direction.

Even though his journey wasn’t an easy one, Dad had a light in his eyes and goodness in his heart, and it’s a gift to think about how that light still shines, and will still shine in his absence.

Sometimes, the simple things are the most amazing.


About the Things New Year’s Resolutions Won’t Resolve {Part Two}

With one Hero of a Hubs out of town for a few days, I’ve been a little “busier” than usual. I’m sorry for the delay in posting part two and blessed that you are reading these words today! I hope you’re encouraged. Thank you for your grace!


In an attempt to not overwhelm you with thoughts on moving forward when New Year’s Resolutions won’t resolve something, I decided to continue the story with a part two… Once you’ve given some thought to what you can do, and given an eye and an ear to considering what God is doing, I have one more thought to share with you on how to move forward when some hard place isn’t changing. {If you haven’t already checked it out, Part One is Right Here.}

Go Find Somebody to Love {Kinda Like the Queen Song?}

Just a few weeks ago, I sat down across the table from a dear friend for a catch-up and a cup of coffee. I hadn’t been out of the house without a kid for any reason except the groceries in weeks and I probably looked like Buddy the Elf when Santa’s visit is announced as I opened the door of my minivan. We chatted for a long time about different situations in our lives. The good things. The hard things. The things we wish were different but don’t know how to change.

As we climbed back into my car at the end of our coffee moment, these simple words seemed to flow out of my mouth without passing through my brain for long: “Gosh, my friend. Having coffee with you is better than therapy! I don’t really need anyone to solve my problems, I just need to be reminded I’m not the only one who has them.”

Can you relate, mayhaps?

So what’s the lesson?

You should absolutely look to Jesus in the midst of the hard places, but remember that He has also given us each other so that we bear one another’s burdens and thus lighten the load.


During those previously-mentioned days at the Pawn Shop, once I stopped focusing on the things about my circumstances that I didn’t like, I opened my eyes and began to see the people hurting around me. God-given opportunities to pray for other people, to share His love, and to show kindness to the people I encountered each day started popping up.  I even found myself in the home of one of my co-workers, leading her in studying the Bible for the first time. I made plenty of mistakes and totally fell short on countless occasions, but still, God saw my heart and was willing to use the humble efforts I could offer for His glory.

Fast forwarding a decade, I’m back in my hometown, homeschooling two of our four children. While the Tank, our second eldest, gets heaps of playtime throughout the day (since he’s 4), the Bear, being the oldest of the crew, has a pretty decent amount of schoolwork to get through each day before he can call it quits.

He’d rather be playing a game or running around outside or illustrating a story (one of his favorite pastimes is writing and illustrating! Be still my heart!) I love him and wish he could be doing what he wants all the time, too. But, I love him enough to know that the Math lessons, the memory work, the spelling and science and history — these hard things are important for him to become the best version of who he is destined to be. 

Could this be how our Father sees it, too? Could the hard things be important for us to become the best version of who we are destined to be? Our own hardships allow us to recognize hurt in the people around us, enabling us to walk with them through hard seasons. And if we can take our eyes off of our own circumstances and look at the hurting world around us, we might be surprised to find that even if our circumstances don’t change, the way we feel about them just might.


Even though we live in the same town, every once in a while we find a good reason to pile the kids and the stuff in the car to trek across to my Mom’s house to spend a night or two together there. And a wonderful, funny thing happens each and every time I go. My pace tends to slow down a little. I feel more relaxed and just have a sense that the whirlwind of things that normally keep my mind occupied are going to sort themselves out and it’s all going to be okay. I linger in the shower. I take extra time enjoying my coffee. My pajamas are on early and off late, and I let the kids enjoy themselves and loosen the reins on our usual rules a little.

What is it about being there that makes it such a happy place for me?

I’m 100% sure it’s because I feel loved.


My Mom definitely has the gift of hospitality, and loves to make things special for us every time we visit. And what her example teaches me is that we gain a sense of self worth when other people make us feel like we matter. When the people around us make efforts to bring us comfort or joy or peace or even just a tummy full of food that makes us happy, the underlying message is truly I’m glad you’re here, and you’re worth caring about. 

Deep down, I wonder if that’s what we all want to know most: that we are loved, and worthy of love.

So, there’s this unexpected way to be surprised by joy in the midst of life at its hardest: Go find somebody to love.

Jesus put it this way:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. {Luke 6:38}

Lifting up and esteeming other people — taking the time to find somebody to love, and showing love in a way that communicates to them Hey, you matter — can make your life feel like it’s worth living, even in the hardest of seasons. Seeing other people experience joy can so often bring us joy, especially when we know that our actions were the spark of it.

Maybe it’s paying for the order the car behind you placed at the drive-thru, or starting the adventure of sponsoring a child on the other side of the world. Maybe it’s a meal for a stranger in the park or a smile for someone you pass in the street.

Like so many of God’s ways, what seems upside down is the right way up: when we are hurting the most, down in the darkest places, there’s no better time to stretch out our hands and love others.


When we want to clench our fist, we’re better off stretching out an open palm.

When we’re aching to just curl up in a ball, we’re better off stretching our arms wide to embrace someone who needs it.

Maybe your year is already off to a tough start, and maybe there are things you’re walking through that a New Year’s Resolution just can’t take care of.

But you can make a resolution to keep showing up, keep loving others, and keep giving.

Go find somebody to love, and you might be surprised to find Jesus and joy right there — and sense afresh how much God loves you.



When Your Six-Year-Old Schools You About Fruits and Roots

There’s this thing about the childlike faith thing that unravels me a little bit — I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. Maybe it’s because I see my children as just a little wild, just a little spontaneous… just a little too young for me to figure out how faith like a child can get it — the grand and glorious goodness of a humble and holy God.

Does it take wisdom to take Jesus to heart?

Doesn’t it?

For all my sensibilities, I would’ve thought so.

But a little child shall lead them…

An impromptu prompting came to my mind on a homeschooling Monday morning. Our sweet little Tiger Tank safely dropped off at preschool, the Belle beside me crunching a few crumbs at the table, the Bear and I sat down to begin our day, and I laid my big Bible on the table, and turned to Galatians.

Can you read chapter 6, verse 7 for me?

I helped him find the way.

He began: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he reap.”


We talked about the big words in this verse, and then about sowing seeds and reaping harvests. If I sow an apple seed, will an orange tree grow? No. Since the beginning, God created the world so that the seeds we sow will reap a harvest according to the seed. And if someone says I can plant these apple seeds and grow orange trees? They are deceiving me. (Or trying to.) We talked and questioned and talked a bit more.

We’ll be planting our garden soon. And we talked it out: our cucumber seeds will give us cucumber plants. Our tomato seeds will give us tomato plants.

But what other kinds of seeds can we sow?

We looked back at the adjacent page, laid open for the reading, and remembered something we talked about last year: the fruits of the Spirit. We can sow seeds of kindness. If you are kind to your brother, he is likely to be more kind to you. We can sow seeds of gentleness. We can sow seeds of patience, goodness, self-control. 

And can we sow bad seeds? And what happens if we do? What will we reap if we hurt? If we’re mean? Don’t you receive your own discipline if you hurt your brother or sister? These are different seeds that grow different fruits.

He took the concept to heart, and ran with it. It took him a moment to put it into words, but then I was so struck my jaw hung open, hearing his observation:

“The bad roots tangle the good roots and pull the good roots, and they break off the good roots so that they can’t find water.”

I hadn’t even mentioned the word “roots” — or thought about roots yet, for that matter.

Wide-eyed at his observation, wondering about his understanding, I quickly wrote down what he’d said.

Isn’t this true: There is no fruit if there is no root.

And isn’t this a truth about life? For all the good we might be attempting to sow, if we are also sowing bad seeds — we only have this one life, this one garden to plant in — and we can’t think that the one will not affect the other.

If we keep sowing seeds of anger, and we protect that plant, and allow it to flourish instead of pulling it up like the weed that it truly is — won’t that anger affect the rest of our lives? Deep underneath the soil, those roots will strangle the good things trying to take root, find water and grow.

We might find a convenient tomato cage to put around our bitterness, try to keep it to its own little corner of the garden — but those roots will stretch out under the ground in any direction they choose. And they’ll hinder the growth and flourishing of the good seeds we’re sowing. Deep under the soil, things are happening we can’t see and don’t always understand.

We discovered it quickly in our garden last year: it’s hard to grow good things. It’s easy to grow weeds.

garden 2

On the way home from a photo session that evening, the Hubs and I were chatting, and I shared about the Bear’s significant comments on that Bible verse that morning. Then a professional athlete came up in conversation who was once the premier player in his sport. He won and won and won, and changed the face of the sport he represented, and then it all came crashing down when a big bright light was shone on his personal life. A mistress, an affair, infidelity — it seemed like all the world had front row seats to watch his world, falling apart.

And we thought long and observed: the roots were all planted in the same soil. For all the care and discipline and focus and effort he showed in excelling in his sport, still the lack of care and focus and discipline in his personal life meant tangled up roots — the bad seeds he sowed in his personal life produced bad fruit, and the good fruit of his professional life was a casualty when it came time to harvest.

For all our efforts, we are still only human at the best of times. We get angry. We get bitter. We get hurt and we react.

What hope is there for any of us, who will only ever fall short?

Paul wrote about it to the Romans, {see ch. 7} his observation about how he did what he did not want to do, and did not do what he did want to do. Sin dwells in me, he wrote. Oh wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death?

I thank God — through Jesus Christ Our Lord! 

Here is the hope for all of us: Jesus, who died to sin and died for sin, so that we could be freed from sin to live a new life in Him.

Paul continued this theme in chapter 8 with the glorious news:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We know we fall short. We know we sow amiss. But the law is fulfilled for us in Him — for us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Left to our own devices, we will always only ever be a mess. But if we yield our lives to the Spirit of God, Who can dwell in us, and Whose fruit is kindness, gentleness, patience, self-control… there is hope for us still.

We can sow kindness, and reap it. Sow gentleness and receive it in return.

The gardens of our hearts will not likely be weed-free until some glad morning when we’re called to our forever home in Him… but there is hope that even in this life, we can find help to get some weeds out of our hearts, to sow good seeds, and bear good fruit.

The afternoon of our great conversation, there was a marked difference in the Bear’s behavior. He was carefully choosing to say “Yes ma’am.” To listen and immediately do what I’d asked. To be respectful and polite and to share.

You’re being such a thoughtful boy today! I thanked him and praised his efforts.

He quickly replied as if it must’ve been obvious: “I want to sow good seeds.”


Get Back Up

It’s unfortunate. It’s painful. It’s lousy. It hurts.

Life knocks you down.

You know what I mean?

The thing happens that you were praying wouldn’t.

Those words are said and they cut you so deep your heart physically hurts for a while.

He is sick or she is sick or you are sick and it is scary and it is hard and it hurts.

You’re forced to say goodbye way before you expected, and you just weren’t ready.

One way or another, one cause or another, sometimes you’re on your back, looking at the ceiling. And sometimes, you’re not even completely sure how you got there.


At first, it hurts to be on the floor. It hurts to be down. It hurts to be laid low, and it hurts to feel it affect how you live. The light in your eyes is gone. The joie de vivre is missing. Your hope grew feathers and flew away without you.

After a while, you wonder how long you can stay down. And, sometimes, you think… maybe I should just stay down. Big dreams end with big heartache, so I’m staying small, you think. It’s not so bad laying low, being close to the ground. Less likely getting hurt down here anyway.

You’re still breathing, sure, but sometimes, you kind of stop living.

A few decades late to the punch, I devoured the Rocky films a few years ago. I loved the portrayal of the inner fight so much more than anything happening in the ring. The story (in Rocky I) of somebody who felt like a nobody pouring every ounce of himself into a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change his destiny — it was a story about heart that someone who didn’t care an ounce for boxing could still relate to.

We’ve all at some stage felt like a nobody who believed they had more inside of them to live for and to give to the world, than just this.

But the most compelling aspect of the story (for me) at nearly every turn, was watching Rocky’s decision to get back up.

When he faced a super-trained Soviet giant, (Rocky IV) and all the odds were against him, and he was outmatched in size and strength and he had nothing but his own determination to avenge the death of an old friend, he got in the ring. He took the hits that came his way, and sure, steady, consistently, he fought round after round after round, winning a crowd who began the match completely against him — simply because they were amazed by how he fought with heart. How he got back up.

What compelled him to get up again and again, what compelled him to keep going, every time he was clocked or decked or nearly knocked out?

I can only think that he kept getting back up because he still believed he had a chance at victory. He fought to win. And he always fought with everything he had in him.

We get knocked to the mat in life, too. And it can feel like we’ve got an opponent standing over us, willing us to stay down.

And the truth is, we do.

Paul warned the Corinthians — Our enemy will try to take advantage of us. We cannot afford to be ignorant of his devices. (2 Cor. 2:11)

It would suit our enemy well for us to get knocked down and to stay down.

To choose safe over brave.

To choose comfortable over purposeful.

To choose to keep breathing, but to kind of stop living.

But what a wild thought is this: could the victory be the thing that gets us off the mat?

Could hope be the thing that challenges us to forsake safe and dare to be dangerous?

And don’t we have the victory already?

It was two years ago today, when I said that hard goodbye to my Dad — a heart-heavy see you on the other side.

And I remember the haunting words of that song about Home — the ones that felt like a God-whisper:

The trouble, it might drag you down,
if you get lost, you can always be found…

And I see fresh truth: the troubles we experience in this life can literally drag us down. Pin us to the mat. Convince us it’s okay to stop living and just keep breathing.

I’ve walked that road a time or two.

We can get lost, wandering through those troubles. Grief, and hurt, and heartache — they can be winding paths that feel like labyrinths we can’t find a way out of.

Sometimes the decision not to cry anymore is also a decision not to laugh anymore. Numb is the easy route.

But friends, there is always hope. With God, nothing is impossible. Do you believe that deep down, in your soul?

When the odds seemed completely stacked against us, when the Saviour of the World was crucified, dead and laid in a tomb, when anyone who believed would’ve been sure the Light of the World had been extinguished — and when it seemed like hope was completely foolish — by the power of God, the Spirit of God brought about a Resurrection.


“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” {Romans 8:11}

There is a power at work in us — there is a hope that we can hold onto. Because we are not just the servants of the Crucified King — we are also those who worship the Risen Lord.

There is nothing too hard for God and there is no reason for His children to live pinned to the mat.

Have you let a place in your soul give up and lay down?

Get Back Up.

Have you decided to stick with safe at the expense of stupendous, stellar, spectacular?

Get Back Up.

Is there any place in your heart that has been given to despair?  Or just quietly resigned to the fact that “this is how I’m always gonna feel, and this is how it’s always gonna be?”

Get. Back. Up.

It’s written in Black & White: If His Spirit lives in you, He can give you LIFE.

He came to give you LIFE, and give it to you MORE ABUNDANTLY.

And? He is the way, the truth, and the LIFE.

Troubles might drag you down, but if you get lost, you can ALWAYS be FOUND.

Because you can never be separated from the love of God, poured out for us in Christ Jesus.

Find yourself in Him today, and there you will find the strength — no matter what — to get back up.



— For Missy

The Worthless Whisper

It was bright and sunny Sunday morning. The birds were singing, the sun was bright, the kids were excited, and we were running late. The Hubs had to be in Greenville early to assist with preparations for a guest speaker, and we hoped I’d be able to arrive with the kids in order to attend the speaker’s talk before church.

We normally go to church in Washington… so the half hour distance, plus not having HH’s assistance in getting the kids ready, plus needing to go extra early, plus the Belle wanting a wee nap… basically it all combined to mean that I was so far from the possibility of getting there on time. I think I counted that after getting everyone in the car, I went back into the house approximately six times to grab one more thing before the van actually reversed out of the driveway.

I started the trek to Greenville, noisy little people in the back, me flustered at the thought of now being exceptionally late, and I prayed that the Lord would somehow help us make it on time. Yes, friends, I kind of treated God like a magic genie and I hoped that if I rubbed His lamp, a thirty minute journey would become a fifteen minute journey, and then the time-space continuum could get back to normal.


I intended to do my part by driving as quickly as seemed reasonably possible.

Shortly after that prayer, I heard a reply from the Lord. This was especially significant because I hadn’t been a very good listener lately — if I was asking and He was answering, I probably didn’t hear it. But this was the whisper:

You need to slow down. Let it go. This isn’t a big deal.

It was something like that — you know how you hear something with your heart and it’s not necessarily a message with words, but still something you just understand? I sensed this simple encouragement from the Lord to relax, to trust that this “issue” was very small in the grand scheme of things, that it was all going to be okay.

I agreed. You’re right, Lord, I need to slow down. I purposefully slowed down the bustling mini-van and continued the journey.

I sat not-so-patiently as the next two stop lights I encountered were red and took FOREVAHEVAH. I was anxious to get scooting again, and sped up again — not to the slowed-down pace I’d been directed to by the Lord, but to the previous pace — the as quick as reasonably possible one.

I doubt they’ll be handing out any medals in heaven for half-obedience.

Not long after, flashing blue lights were behind me, and I hadn’t even made it out of Washington yet.

It turns out, the stretch of road I was driving on was a 35 mph zone, but I thought it was a 45. To my credit, there were no speed limits signs posted from the point where I turned onto the road to the point where I was pulled over, and the first sign you see, shortly after the spot where I was pulled over, is a 50. Since I was going as fast as reasonably possible — faster than 45, I was going rightmuchfasterthanreasonableina35milesperhourzone.

Needless to say, I was 1) disappointed to get a speeding ticket and 2) SO disappointed that it could have been avoided if I had just done that one little thing I encourage my kids to do all the time: listen and obey.


When you do something stupid like that, and you realize that you specifically, deliberately (or perhaps absentmindedly) disobeyed the Lord (the way I chose not to relax and slow down) I imagine it is completely natural for you to feel a couple of different things. One is totally frustrated and angry with yourself. Another is really sorry and disappointed at yourself. The third is just totally ashamed of yourself.

The frustration and anger tend to subside. Deep breaths. The sorrow over the mistake will hopefully lead you, like it led me, to ask for forgiveness. But there is this funny thing about shame. Shame is like a stinky wet blanket, laid thick and heavy over your soul.

The person who feels ashamed usually wants to hide. Regret and frustration and sorrow are healthy parts of the process of dealing with something you’ve done. But shame often turns the nail on its head and tries to point instead at the problem being with who you are.

I basically dealt with my own anger and frustration about the situation. I asked the Lord to forgive me for blatantly continuing on my own course of action, instead of truly listening and responding to the gentle whisper He was kind enough to give me.

But then, in relational terms, the situation was a big knock. It hurt my pride. It made me feel foolish. It bummed me out because in the States speeding tickets can negatively affect your car insurance premiums, and with the Hubs being a “legal immigrant alien” (or some similarly strange term) he has no domestic driving record, and we’ve had to be creative to avoid the super-high insurance premiums that we would have to pay to insure him to drive here. (Hence the usefulness of the Hubs driving a motorcycle.)

Godly sorrow leads to repentance and brings with it hope, and a renewed sense of thankfulness for the forgiveness that Jesus paid for. In the end, it reminds us that, while we are fallen and broken, God sees us as worthy — worthy enough that He’d send His Son to take the punishment we deserve.

Worldly sorrow, and the shame that goes with it, whispers a different message. It says: you are a mess and you’re just not really worth it. You think this about yourself but the truth is that.

I walked around for a while with my tail between my legs. Even though I’d asked for forgiveness and was confident I was forgiven, there was still this uncomfortable discontent in my heart.

I’ve recently been working my way through Beth Moore’s book, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things. It has been so enlightening, such a great encouragement, and it has given me so much food for thought about my faith I feel like I’m overindulging at an all-you-can-eat-buffet. In one section, she is discussing the fact that our enemy feels no remorse for kicking us when we’re down. She comments:

“Somehow we secretly hope the devil, as low as he is, surely has enough scruples to draw the line where the fight would be totally unfair. Satan has no scruples!”

Beth Moore, “When Godly People Do Ungodly Things

It feels ridiculous to admit that I’d like to assume that there are at least a few things that are too low even for the enemy of our souls. But truly — he is as low as it gets!

So after dealing with just being bummed about my disobedience, my lousy decision-making and the consequences, you’d think that was enough to deal with — but no! Satan has no scruples — and he is sure to try to kick you while you’re down!

These whispers quietly creep in, and you feel as if they’re your own thoughts:

Man. You’ve been complaining about cars speeding through your neighborhood. You should totally be ashamed, hypocrite.

Gosh. You really thought you were a lot further along in your walk with the Lord than to go and do something stupid like this. 

Cue the flustered embarrassment. Cue the I’m-so-disappointed-I-want-to-run-and-hide feelings on the inside. Cue the resulting ‘uneasiness’ that I just couldn’t put my finger on for a while.

Can I tell you the best thing to do in a situation like this? If you don’t already think I’m crazy, you might think so now.

If there’s any truth in the words the enemy is whispering, agree with them.

In Matthew 5, Jesus said “Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.” {v. 25}

Here’s what this looks like in practice.

“You’re right devil. It is very hypocritical for me to complain about all the people who have been speeding through my neighborhood, and then to think I’m a special case and I ought to be able to get away with it. But you know what else is true? Every mistake I’ve ever made or ever will make is nailed to the cross. I am sometimes a hypocrite, but I am always forgiven because of JesusThe Bible says ‘Those who look to Him are radiant. Their faces are never covered with shame.’ {Ps. 34:5} so I don’t have to be ashamed of the mistakes I’ve made — when Jesus said ‘It is finished” He meant this, too!!”

And in response to the suggestion that this is an indication that I still belong in Children’s Church:

“You’re right that I did a stupid thing, devil. I should’ve listened when the Lord told me to slow down. But even Paul the Apostle said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” {Phil 3:12} If the Apostle who was responsible for bringing the Gospel to the gentiles and was imprisoned for his faith said he didn’t have it right, there is still plenty of hope for me. I will only attain perfection when Jesus returns and makes all things new — but the Lord has brought me this far, and I most certainly intend to keep on climbing!”

The difficult thing about the whispers of our unscrupulous enemy is that they are often a mix of fiction and non-fiction. They contain just enough truth to disguise the lies that lie underneath: the whispers that question God’s goodness, or question our inheritance in Him.

Friends, are you ever discouraged that you’re just not good enough? Not smart enough? Not perfect enough in one way or another?

We can deeply embrace the truth that we all totally fall short of the incredible, impeccable example of Jesus — and since that’s the gold standard, we should not try to hold ourselves to any other standard. Because this is the life-giving truth: God knew from the beginning we’d never measure up. But He also — in some beautifully marvelous mystery — decided that we were absolutely worth it anyway.

The next time some worthless whisper comes creeping past your ear? Be quick to agree that while you may not measure up, God saw you as worthy enough to send His Son to planet Earth for you. And you really can’t get more valuable that.


Day 2: The Strength in Our Frailty (And the Guy at the Bank)

Day 2: The Strength in Our Frailty (And the Guy at the Bank)

Hi there! This post is the second in a 31-Day writing adventure I’m embarking on. I’d love for you to join me and read along. You can find the introduction to the series, and a “Table of Contents” as each day goes live, right here. Thanks so much for dropping in!

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If there is one thing I can pinpoint that I find most frustrating about the experience of being human, it’s humanity. Not everybody else’s humanity — it’s my own shortcomings that, metaphorically speaking, keep getting under my skin.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a rather unfortunate experience at the bank, where someone made a pretty bad judgment call about what was happening when I was being helped by the teller. He made a very hurtful comment and followed it up by not being willing to hear what I had to say in defense of the significant amount of time I took with the teller. I cried in my car… cried again when one of the tellers called to apologize while I was in the parking lot at Walmart… it basically just kind of stunk.

I shared the story just after it happened, but I haven’t yet shared the follow-up story, what happened the Monday after that fateful Friday afternoon. By the end of the incident, I knew the name of the gentleman who’d spoken so harshly to me. When I got home from my errands and shared what had happened, the Hubs was… pretty much livid.

He handled it well, but decided he wanted to do something in my defense. So, on Monday afternoon, I was busy in my kitchen when he walked in with the phone in his hand and said “Someone wants to speak with you.”

He’d contacted the guy from the bank, explained that he’d been rude to his wife, and said he owed me an apology. I answered the phone and he apologized in an “if I have offended you…” sort of way. Not really committing — if you get my drift?

I took a moment to explain what was happening at the bank that afternoon when he was waiting in line. That there were 112 checks to process. That those checks were to cover my Dad’s medical bills. That that day was the six month anniversary of his death.

And once he had the whole story? He really apologized. Through a few more tears, I encouraged him to remember that you don’t always know what is going on in other’s people’s lives, so it’s best to be careful with everyone. He agreed that that was good advice and seemed to sincerely take it to heart.


At the end of the interaction, I was thankful I’d had the opportunity to speak with him, appreciated the apology, and was especially grateful to the amazing husband who stood in the kitchen with me, held me while I cried once more and said “You don’t deserve to be treated like that.” {Hero, more and more all the time…}

Reflecting on this incident, I see myself in the bank story — but I’m not always the protagonist. Sometimes I’m the one misjudging others, the one who doesn’t really want to hear the explanations for what I’ve already made my own judgments about. Sometimes I’m one of the other customers in line who stands there and agrees with the guy who’s getting impatient, stoking the fire instead of suggesting there’s the possibility that something else is going on there.

I say things I later regret. I do things I wish I didn’t do. And this is the frailty that makes the human experience so challenging. Our imperfections and weaknesses are an integral part of the story — we even say it, when we make mistakes:

I’m only human.

And that only human place? That is the place where God steps in with strength for our frailty.

What seems like a liability, God turns into an asset.

Paul explains it this way:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. {2 Cor. 12: 9-10}

Paul’s weakness started out as a source of frustration for him, but in God’s glorious goodness, He saw it fit to redeem those weaknesses — and turn them into a personal advantage. The more weakness we struggle with, the more we can lean on the power of God instead of trying to stand on our own {in}sufficiency.

We will make bad calls. We’ll make mistakes. We’ll make misjudgments. We might sometimes be the one that sends someone else to their minivan in tears, and not even know it.

But there is grace and forgiveness for those poor choices, and by the help of the Holy Spirit, there is the hope that we can walk the line a little better next time, that we can stay in step with the Spirit, that we can follow the example of Jesus.

Will we ever be completely comfortable in our own skin? Probably not. But that God chooses to stand with us, work through us, forgive us and use us anyway? It’s nothing short of glorious.